When you get a new device and connect it to the internet, you have some decisions to make around security. An unprotected device online will typically last just a few minutes before being compromised. Thankfully in the case of a PC, Microsoft now includes protection built right into Windows, but there’s a whole lot more on offer than out-of-the-box security.
Often new computers come with some kind of security suite pre-installed, under a trial-period arrangement. After the 30-180 days are over, you’ll be asked to start paying for it. Before you go with that security suite, it’s a great idea to consider the best option that suits your needs.
In the past week, I’ve taken a look at the security suite Bitdefender which offers a long list of features to secure your devices and your data.
Smart design is simple design
When it comes to the design of software, it starts with the installation process. Given the people installing this software will have a wide variety of skill levels, it needs to be simple and thankfully it is.
During the software installation process, you’ll be prompted to remove any other competing security software, given these don’t play well together. Next, Bitdefender will invite you to complete an initial assessment of your device. This ensures you have no current threats on your system.
From there you can dive into the settings and configure more options, or you can just simply get about using your device and know you’re protected from online threats.
If you do launch Bitdefender Internet Security from the start menu, the interface is really intuitive, starting with the Dashboard. This provides quick access to different features in the product like Quick Scan, System Scan, Vulnerability Scan, VPN, SafePay and Wallets. Down the left side of the application, you’ll find further security-related features categorised into Protection, Privacy and Utilities.
Personally I found real value in the Notifications area. You’ll see toast notifications pop in from the lower-right of your screen when Bitdefender has some information you should pay attention to. If you see one and it disappears before you can read it, you can simply open the app and tap Notifications.
One example of this is when you connect a USB drive to the computer, a notification will be shown, explaining that the contents of the drive will be immediately scanned in the background.
How does it perform ?
One of the most frustrating parts of security software can be the performance hit you take when they run. An example of this is a weekly scan, often you can tell the day of the week from your machine slowing down, due to a background scan. When running a scan on Bitdefender I experienced something very impressive with the RAM and CPU utilisation.
The software is smart in the way it runs, it monitors the demands on the system while scanning and can dynamically adapt based on your actions. While being active, opening, closing applications, the CPU usage hovered around 15%, but after leaving it for a couple of minutes, it climbed to use around 60% of the CPU. As I resumed use of the laptop again, the processor requirement once again dropped, ensuring my experience as a user, remained fast and responsive.
Far too often we see AV products consume a majority of the processing cycles, leaving regular tasks like launching Chrome and browsing the web, a frustrating, slow disaster. It’s great to see Bitdefender understand the user experience is important and scanning your system should not trump the usability of your system.
In relation to the performance of the security side of the software, this is a really difficult challenge as a reviewer. I’m not about to intentionally launch viruses in my system to check its ability to catch viruses, Trojans, worms or worse, malware or cryptolocker. On the performance of Bitdefender’s ability to keep your machine safe, the tool is only as good as its data source. The software receives automatic updates, so as soon as their vulnerability list is updated, you’ll get the latest definitions to guard against it.
Stand out features of this application
The features of a security suite, need to be impressive to encourage users to purchase over the free offerings. The list of features on offer in Bitdefender is impressive, taking a broad scope in approaching your security needs. We’re really far away from the days of a security product, simply being an anti-virus product, which reflects the growing list of threats we face in protecting our data.
The list of services included in Bitdefender Internet Security are listed below.
- Real-time data protection
- Network Threat Prevention
- Advanced Threat Protection
- Multi-layer Ransomware protection
- Vulnerability Assessment
- Web Attack Prevention
- Rescue Environment
- Bitdefender Photon
- Global Protective Network
- Game, Movie & Work Profiles
- Battery Mode
- Microphone monitor
- Webcam protection
- Safe online banking
- Parental control
- Privacy Firewall
- Wi-Fi Security Advisor
- Social Network Protection
- Password Manager
- File Shredder
Not everything’s perfect
There’s not a lot to complain about with this software, it does what you’d expect, it protects your devices and your data. While we’d all love to imagine we make the right decisions when evaluating an email, or clicking on a link to download software, it is reassuring to know that there’s technology helping to back you up.
What I would suggest is that Bitdefender adds a section to the application that showcases more information about the capabilities of the software. In Settings and Update, you’ll find a toggle for Automatic Updates (on by default), but what’s missing is details about how many new definitions are being added, how many threats globally by all Bitdefender users have been stopped. These metrics would help reassure customers that new threats are likely to be mitigated automatically as the updates roll out to the clients.
Part of keeping a Windows computer secure also relates to OS updates, and I haven’t seen Bitdefender raise any alerts to let users know they have pending Windows Updates to install. I think this would be a nice option to include in the product, particularly given how many zero-day exploits are being found in either Windows or Office recently.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much does it cost and when can you get it ?
Internet security is available now from Bitdefender’s website directly. The pricing model is structured per device, with a choice between 1, 3, 5 or 10 devices and can be run on Windows 7 with SP1, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.
In terms of price, Internet Security starts at A$69.99 per year, with the first year offered at a discount, costing just A$34.99 to get started. There are savings to be had if you extend the purchase from 1 year to 2 or even 3 years. With 1 device, over 3 years, you’ll pay $115.49, a saving of A$50 to buying it a year at a time.
If you have a lot of Windows devices in your home, say a PC in the home office, a couple of laptops for mum and dad and a couple more for the kids, then you might consider the 10-pack of licenses. This costs A$114.99 per year or A$254.99 if you buy for 3 years.
For these prices, it represents great value for the long list of features on offer with Bitdefender Internet Security. For those looking for identity theft protection, Bitdefender also offer a product for that, including monitoring if your personal information appears for sale on the Dark Web, it can even detect impersonation attempts on social media, which is a common problem, for those with a decent following. This starts at A$5.42 per month.
What is important to understand with the pricing is the VPN offering. As part of the internet security suite, you get access to basic Bitdefender VPN, but this means you are automatically assigned an IP from one of their global locations and 200MB of data daily. If you’d like to chose a location, say the United States to tap into their Netflix offering, then you will need to pay up for VPN Premium.
This costs as little as $4.16 per month. For this you get access to Split tunneling, which enables some websites to bypass the VPN and access the internet directly. It’s a great offering from Bitdefender, simply to use, but does come at an additional cost.
If you’re chasing protection of your mobile devices as well, then you may consider the Bitdefender Total Security product which includes support for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS for just A$10 per year more.
Security Software like an operating system, most people don’t think about it, but given what seems to be a relentless increase in the number of threats to our data and privacy, it’s probably time we all started thinking longer about it. Taking action means you need to make a decision on a product to help keep your devices safe and what’s on offer here from Bitdefender is a really compelling offering.
While I do wish the first year price was simply the price for each year, it does show the company’s belief in their product, with an expectation you’ll find enough value in year 1, to pay up for years 2, 3 and beyond.
If you’re still on the fence, you can always give the 30-day free trial a shot to see if you like it, before committing to buy.
All things considered, my final takeaway from using Bitdefender is that it offers really solid protection, regularly ranking at the top of performance charts, while also delivering a compelling list of features for a decent price. What I like the most is the simplicity in what they’ve delivered in the interface, along with them being respectful with available performance on a machine, to ensure your computer doesn’t grind to a halt when a scan is underway.
If you’re in the market for security software that goes well beyond simple AV protection, then definitely check out Bitdefender.